Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Putting A (Well Behaved) 2-Year-Old To Bed

In my Visiting Bubbeh persona, I found myself babysitting two of my granddaughters the other night. Their eldest sister Y was out at a barmitzvah with her parents. They live in New York. 
R is 2 and FB is 6. 

R is in her preferred state of nudity+nappy. And purple socks. We are in the front room, where there are many books. 
-Ok, here's the plan. I'm going to read you these 3 books and then we'll go upstairs and we'll put pyjamas on you and then I'll read you 2 stories and then you'll go to bed. Ok?
(Read 3 books. Go upstairs)
-Look at these pyjamas, aren't they cute! I got them for you. I am a major supporter of Peter Alexander. See, Eiffel Tower on the front! Pink! Ok on goes the top. And now the shorts! 
-Oh you want them on back to front? Ok, why not. Happy?
-Which books do you want me to read? Oh this one? Longish? With 4 stories in it? Umm. Ok. 
(Start reading while FB hops and jumps and climbs and forages while R giggles)
-Um FB I think you should go to your room and wait till I'm done here, you're distracting R, ok?
FB-Sure. (Bunny hops out.)
R-Another book!
-Ok, that's what Bubbehs are for. Which one?
-Wild tings!
-Oh, I know that one! Where the Wild Things are. And here's the book! 
Wait, it's in Spanish. 

FB, is there an English version somewhere?
(FB pops head into room.)
-Can you get it?
-Don't know where it is. 
-Oh ok then. I guess I'll manage. 
(FB pops head out of room.)
-Here goes: 'La noche que Max se puso un traje de lobo y comenzó a hacer una traversura tras otra, Su mamá le dijo: "¡ERES UN MONSTRUO!" y Max le contestó:"¡TE VOY A COMER!" y lo mandaron a la cama sin cenar-
-Need pishy. 
-Umm, ok, even though you are wearing a nappy, sure. 
(Off with the back to front shorts and the nappy.
FB, ever helpful, readies the step set for the toilet.)
R sits. Smiles. 
-Do you really need pishy?
(Dreamily)- Kaki. 
-Oh really? And yet there you sit, and nothing happening. 
You know, I think you are totally stooging me and you don't really need, right?
-Pishy kaki. 
-And yet you are doing nothing. 
-Ok, that's enough. 
(Back on with the nappy and the back to front PJ shorts.) 
Let's go to bed. 
(R runs into sisters' room and snuggles into a bed, plays possum)
FB -She can stay there! I don't mind!
-Uh yeah, as if the two of you won't be running around as soon as I turn my back. 
Come on, into your cot!
(I pick her up, and deposit her in her cot. She sits up.)
(I go to bathroom again and fill cup. She drinks.)
-Tenk you. 
-Ok, now lie down. 
(Points to slim reader emblazoned with the ubiquitous princess sisters and Olaf the snowman)
-Oh ok. One more then. 
(Fortunately book has about 4 words per page. )
-I didn't know you had a special blanky...FB, where is R's blanky?
(FB pops head back into room)
-Don't know, Y had it before and she put it somewhere. 
-You can just take one out of that cupboard. 
(Pops out)
-Ok (reach in, take random flannelette blanky)
-Hey, ok ok, what about this one?
(I take out almost identical one.)
-So lie down, I'll cover you. 
(Lies down, snuggles under blanky.)
Shlof gezunt. 
(Close door. Blessed silence.
That only took an hour and a half.)
FB -Can you read Willy Wonka to me?
-Of course. The night is young. 

*The photos used are not my grandchildren. Mine are much cuter. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Tween girl

I've been wanting to write about this fascinating stage of childhood which we have come to call 'tweenage', 8-13 or 14, and when I started it came out like a poem. So I went with it. 

Tween girls
On the brink of they don't know what
Not little kids anymore, they think
Posing in front of mirrors (or any reflective surfaces)
Examining faces, imaginary blemishes
Hand on hip, pelvis tilted, looking back over shoulder at reflections
Shy smile, bold smile, batting lashes
Minx coquette and yet
They can't know what lies ahead. 
And then giggles and tickles and being mean to little sisters
then being helpful 
To mum and then hating her and then wanting her stuff and her approval;
And then
Clear skinned and coltish and pouty and laughing and cartwheeling and twirling
unselfconscious and self-conscious in turns
Sitting hugging knees, or with legs flung out, unashamed and then embarrassed
Flick hair up flick hair down 
Side pony tail then not, then braids then not, hair never long enough
Bikes and skates and scooters and longing for makeup
Hate boys like boys hate boys 
Dirty boys stupid boys 
Too old for play dates, too young to hang out at the mall Hanging on to older girls, sitting at their feet, worshipping and listening and learning
They don't know what
They are

Thursday, 9 June 2016


I first encountered death of a family member when I was 18. My brother Yehuda had been killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. After that, my parents were subsumed with grief and went AWOL as it were, mentally and physically. They went to Israel to visit Yehuda's kibbutz several times after that, and would stay away for around 6 weeks at a time. 
It was during one of these absences that I first found myself without my family over a Yom Tov. 
I was spending Yom tovim and Shabbosim in the home of Rabbi ID Groner during the times that my parents were away, so over the years I would have spent every Yom tov there. I was a part of the 'family'. And although I'm not really a shul-goer, I did go to shul, and Yeshivah was my shul. 
So came the inevitable time of Yizkor. All I knew of yizkor was the Gabai's THUMP on the Bima, and the announcement 'Kinder arroys!' And of course when I was a Kindt, untouched by bereavement, that's what I did. I went out with all the other kids. Who knew what went on in the shul for those 15 or so minutes that we kids all milled around and chit-chatted outside? Old ladies stayed in and we went out. 
But at 18 at that time in the davenning, suddenly I didn't know what to do. Do I stay? Do I go? Is it only about parents or also siblings? For whom does one 'stay in' for yizkor? Never thought about it. The Tehillas Hashem siddur says only parents. But everyone else says siblings too. What is it about, if not remembrance, obviously, and why would one not memorialize a brother? So I stayed. I didn't say anything but I stayed. 
I saw old ladies (of course I am now older than many of those old ladies) weeping quietly and swaying with their faces hidden in their machzors. I heard murmuring of silent prayer. I heard the Kel Melai Rachamim, maybe for the first time, and then it was over. 
Afterwards, at lunch, R Groner told me that I shouldn't stay in because my parents were alive. Oh. Whoops. But I don't remember if I gave it much thought because when you are 18, even a traumatized 18, life beckons; well, it did me anyway. 
My mother was also not a big shul-goer, and had been raised in a traditional but pretty secular family. But she always made a point of going to Yizkor (Yisskeh, my Aussie mum pronounced it, as she mispronounced so many Jewish terms - 'Mejeshem' instead of 'Im Yirtzeh Hashem', Moydi Ani, Kenorah, a sort of pastiche of Tzvosser Yiddish and Australian vowels). She had bad knees and hips and walked with a cane from her mid 50's but she would go for Yizkor come rain or shine, to Yeshivah until she could no longer make the distance, and then to Adass which was much closer to home. She had lost her parents while in her 20's. 
She passed away when I was in my 20s and her 31st yohrzeit falls on 10 Sivan. Her last Shavuos was terrible, awful, and has cast a cloud over Shavuos for me ever since (and then my other brother died 2 Sivan, so.) which I try to dispel by making a Kiddush in her name. 
And I always go to Yizkor. Rain or shine. Just as she did. 
It's not as if I don't think about my parents every day. Your loved ones are never forgotten. 
It's not as if I don't dedicate Tzedaka to their names anyway, or at least I think I would, even without the prompt that the Yizkor prayer gives me. 
Those few minutes of time with others who have lost parents- and sooner or later, in the natural order of things, that means everyone- give me a few minutes to remember and to really focus on them, and also to realize how we are all temporal and temporary beings, yet we are also part of an endless chain. 
I still don't know what to do during Yizkor. The prayer that my parents - and, less officially, my brothers- are in Gan Eden and the pledge to give Tzedoka in their names take only a few minutes. Then the Av HaRachamim and then the chazan's Kel Melei Rachamim- it all takes about 3 minutes. What am I supposed to do the rest of the time?
That's all, I guess. 
Sometimes with my face shielded by my machzor as I weep silently. Like the other old ladies.